St. Louis Mayor: Recent Federal Indictments Just 'Tip of the Iceberg'

Jun 8, 2022 at 1:38 pm
click to enlarge St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones speaks to reporters on Wednesday. - Monica Obradovic
Monica Obradovic
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones speaks to reporters on Wednesday.

Less than a week after three St. Louis officials were indicted on federal corruption charges, Mayor Tishaura Jones surmises that there are "more indictments to come.”

“We’ve known that aldermanic courtesy has been something that has been at the board for a long time,” Jones told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday. “We don’t know how many other people are involved, and I think there are more federal indictments to come.”

Last Thursday, an unsealed indictment sent shockwaves through St. Louis. Federal prosecutors alleged Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and aldermen John Collins-Muhammad and Jeffrey Boyd accepted cash — and for Boyd and Collins-Muhammad, other gifts — in exchange for political favors.

Jones elaborated to say she doesn’t know for certain whether constituents can expect more indictments. However, she says she thinks this is just “the tip of the iceberg.”

“None of us have a crystal ball, and we cannot predict if there are more federal indictments to come,” Jones says. “But here’s what I do know: St. Louis’ faith in their government has been shaken once again, betrayed by those who allegedly sought to use their public office for private profit.”

Reed, Boyd and Collins-Muhammad have all resigned. Ward 10 Alderman Joe Vollmer will take Reed’s place as board president.

In a conversation with the mayor, Interim Board President Vollmer stressed a commitment to restoring the board’s integrity, Jones says. She asked the public to "give him a chance" as Vollmer navigates a role for which he did not seek election. Vollmer will serve as acting president until a special election for board president in November.

Jones says her administration is currently reviewing potential ethics language and legislation to protect the board from corruption. She added that the St. Louis Development Corporation is working to create a more “transparent" and "accountable" tax incentive system.

Reed, Collins-Muhammad and Boyd accepted cash from a local business owner who attempted to purchase LRA property and obtain a tax abatement for it, the indictment alleges. LRA did not grant the a tax abatement, according to Jones.

On Monday, the St. Louis Development Corporation announced it would freeze applications to purchase Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) properties in July as it “reevaluates and retools” its processes. Staff will still process existing transactions, but won’t accept new purchase offers until October.

Jones addressed her and Reed's turbulent political relationship in prepared remarks, saying the charges outlined in the indictment “go beyond any personal or political disagreement.”

“Anyone who's followed City Hall knows that despite my administration's best efforts, President Lewis Reed fought me from the day that I first stepped into this office,” she says. “He refused to meet with me and my staff, time and time again about the American Rescue Plan or other key issues. Jeffrey Boyd fought me every day since I became treasurer in 2020.”

During an August 2021 meeting, prosecutors allege John Collins-Muhammad said he was on the mayor’s “shit list,” and “she’s on mine too.” He spoke in reference to a board bill Jones vetoed. If it had passed, the bill would have given a tax abatement on a planned gas station/convenience store in Collins-Muhammad’s ward.

After Reed’s resignation Tuesday, Jones said Reed, Boyd and Collins-Muhammad’s corruption charges brought a dispiriting but necessary moment of reflection for St. Louis.

“This is a stain on our city, but it will not prevent us from becoming a fairer, safer and stronger St. Louis — across racial lines and zip codes,” Jones says.